The Minister for Communication, Ursular Owusu-Ekuful has indicated that persons handling the personal data of citizens in the COVID-19 contract tracing exercise have been trained professionally by the Data Protection Commission to ensure that the privacy of the people are not breached in any way.
She therefore indicated that the National Communication Authority’s handling of the personal data of individuals as the result of the government’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, has been in full compliance with the law.
According to the Minister, the (E.I. 63) which was passed by the Parliament of Ghana during the peak of the pandemic was not meant to pry into the private conversations of individuals, but rather to enhance contact tracing in line with President Akufo-Addo’s vision to deploy science and technology to assist the Ghana Health Service in the fight against the spread of COVID-19 in the country.
The Communication Minister’s assurance is coming at the back of allegations that the Akufo-Addo government was using the Executive Instrument as an alibi to hide behind COVID-19 to pry into the privacy of individuals for other purposes either than fighting the pandemic.
The issue came up on Thursday, September 10, 2020 when the Ministry of Communications and its agencies appeared before the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament to provide answers to some queries contained in the Report of the Auditor General on Public Boards, Public Boards, Corporations and other Statutory Institutions for 2017.
The Executive Director of the Data Protection Commission, Ms. Patricia Adusei-Poku, told the Public Accounts Committee that her outfit has been collaborating with the NCA in the implementation of (E.I. 63), as the agency mandated by law to protect the personal data of citizens.
She however added that, “under a national emergency situation and for reasons of national security and the vital interest of the majority of the data subjects, there exemptions that apply that allows some entities to carry on with the work and then retrospectively consult the Commission. Especially in a situation like a pandemic.”
Speaking in an interview with parliamentnews360.com after the Committee sitting, the Minister for Communication, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, observed that the main purpose of the E.I. 63 is to enhance contact tracing. Indicating that, prior to the establishment of the Emergency Communication System under the E.I. 63, government would have needed to go to court to seek permission and then notify the specific telecommunication company involved before gaining access to the data of individuals.
She however insisted that, “We don’t need the content of communication of any number. We only want to know who has been in close proximity with the owner of that number so that they can also be invited to be tested to see that by being in close proximity with that person, have they been infected or not. That is the only purpose the E. I. 63 has been set up. It doesn’t have any information on the content on any of these devices, either voice or data.
“So with the establishment of this system, once we get the primary number, we would be able to identify numbers that have been in close proximity with that number and they would also be contacted for the COVID test to be conducted on them.”
She said, applying the Emergency Communication System enabled by the E.I. 63 has been very helpful in the fight against the spread of the pandemic.
“It has helped immensely to halt and slow the spread of the disease because once you receive a phone call that you may have been in contact with somebody who has been identified as a positive COVID case, you are also urged to self-isolate while the necessary protocols are going through. So we believe that through this network, we have been able to assist the Ghana Health Service and the Ministry of Health in their response to the pandemic.”
Source: Clement Akoloh||africanewsradio.com\parliamentnews360.com